Getting Started With Meal Planning

Meal plans aren't just for college freshmen. The organization that you create when you craft a meal plan can help you save time and money, and a meal plan can even make it easier for you to eat a healthier diet overall. Maybe you've been thinking about getting started with meal planning. So think about this: What are some good reasons to make a meal plan?

Convenience

From the perspective of convenience, making a weekly meal plan is the culinary equivalent to laying out the next day's outfit before you go to bed. It may not seem like a necessity, but when you can simply start cooking instead of deciding what to make each night, the time that you save really adds up.

Crafting a meal plan also makes shopping more convenient. When you know exactly what you'll be making during the week, it's easy to make a list and get everything you need, cutting out extra trips to the store to "pick up a few things."

Control

When you take a little time each week to craft a meal plan, you are taking control over your diet. Without a meal plan, it's easier to choose entrees and side dishes based on what's immediately available, rather than what has nutritional value. When you plan each dish out ahead of time, it's easier to choose a menu higher in fruits and veggies-or at the very least to see where there might be room to choose more nutritious food.

Meal plan basics

Plan in manageable increments. Trying to sit down and plan an entire month's worth of meals might seem sensible, but in reality it's a little impractical. Planning too many meals ahead of time doesn't allow you enough flexibility to change the menu when you need to, and getting off-track can be discouraging. When you plan meals in weekly increments, everything feels more manageable, and you give yourself a little more leeway for re-planning if you need to.

Mix stand-bys with new recipes. The first time you create a meal plan, it might be tempting to break out all the recipes you've been dying to try. Though meal plans do offer a convenient opportunity to work in new recipes, resist the urge to fill a week with dishes that you've never tried before. Realistically, there will be nights that you want something quick and hassle-free, so try to create a good balance of new experiments and old fallbacks. When you give yourself flexibility in your meal plan, you'll have the best chance for success.

Practice makes perfect. Striking a balance with your meal plan, just like any other skill, will get easier with time. With enough practice, you'll soon be able to easily craft a menu that fits into your lifestyle.

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